The Maine Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Highway Safety today, in partnership with the other New England states, launched the first New England-wide, coordinated distracted driving education campaign to address the importance of attentive, engaged driving.
“Just Drive New England” will take place during the month of April as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and will coincide with the national enforcement mobilization.
“Drivers in New England travel from state to state much more frequently than other parts of the country,” said Lauren Stewart, Director, Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. “This partnership allows us to team up against a problem we all face. This is a unique opportunity to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers by reaching drivers with this coordinated campaign, backed up by enforcement, and highway signage across the six states. Regardless of where you’re going, if you’re in New England, you’ll be reminded to stay focused and engaged when you’re driving.”
The Bureau of Highway Safety is providing more than $800,000 in funding to Maine law enforcement departments to enforce distracted driving laws as part of the national enforcement mobilization.
Police will use crash data to focus on locations where the majority of distracted driving-related crashes, fatalities, and injuries occur.
“County, municipal and state police are first at the scene of these needless and devastating crashes," said Stewart. "Distracted drivers put everyone around them at risk – including motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists. Put your phone away, focus on the road, and ‘Just Drive New England!”
Traffic safety experts say driver inattention is a contributing factor in the following trends:
· Maine fatalities increased from 156 in 2015 to 160 in 2016.
· Nationally, one in ten fatal crashes was reported as distraction-related in 2015 (NHTSA).
· 17 pedestrians were killed in Maine in 2016 (FARS).
· There were 5,987 pedestrian deaths nationally in 2016; this represents an increase of 9 percent from 2015 and 27 percent from 2007 (GHSA).
· Pedestrian deaths as a proportion of total motor vehicle crash deaths have risen steadily, from 11 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2016. Pedestrians now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in the past 33 years. (GHSA).
The Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Highway Safety offers these tips for motorists:
· Before driving, turn your phone off and put it out of reach.
· Let your friends and family know that you’ll be driving and can’t take their calls or texts.
· Pull over to a safe place if you must make a call or send a text.
· Start GPS navigation or review maps before you start driving.
· Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists – especially at night.
· Remember to buckle up! Seat belts are your best defense against a distracted driver.